How the Reformation Affected 16th Century Civilization

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How the Reformation Affected 16th Century Civilization When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of his local monastery in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, Europe was plunged in political and social turmoil. With only a few notable exceptions, a wave of political unity and centralization swept across the Western world. Papal power was perhaps not at its height, yet its corruption and increasingly secular values could be seen from St. Peter's in Rome to John Tetzel in Germany. Furthermore, in the economically prospering towns and cities, the middle class was facing an increasing volatile political situation with the growing national monarchies. All of these factors were to only catalyze the reactionary religious movement which would begin to sweep across Europe by the 1520's. The Protestant Reformation, as it would soon be called, set back years of national centralization by strengthening the aristocracy and dividing countries and regions religiously. Moreover, the strict religious and ethical guidelines of the new Protestant sects forever changed the culture of cities and town across Northern Europe; thereby bringing drastic social reform along with widespread religious fervor. In the first half of the sixteenth century, however, these Protestant movements were only beginning to form, yet their impact has had a lasting effect on the politics of Europe and the rest of the world well in the 20th century. The Reformation spurred a wave of political devolution throughout Europe in the early 1500s, the most obvious example being that of the Holy Roman Empire. Although the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire had managed to keep hold of its power throughout a time of political unification, the Reformati... ... middle of paper ... ...h century historian, claims these strict, hardworking philosophies of puritanical Protestantism laid the foundations of the capitalist society we have today. In conclusion, the Reformation brought about a wave of political devolution counteracting the surge of political centralization sweeping through post-Medieval Europe. The new religious sects which formed in the first half of the sixteenth century continued to separate themselves from the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church, effecting not only the spiritual lives of the laity, but the social institutions of Europe for years to come. The war these religions will create will be a major part of European history in the years to come, with the conflict between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinist, and other protestants defining the political landscape of Western Europe well into the 17th and 18th centuries.

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